A polo shirt is a form of shirt with a collar. Polo shirts are usually short-sleeved but can be long. Polo shirts are usually made of knitted cotton (rather than woven cloth).

Until the beginning of the 20th century polo players wore thick, long-sleeved shirts made of Oxford-cloth cotton. This shirt was the first to have a buttoned-down collar, which polo players invented in the late 19th century to keep their collars from flapping in the wind (Brooks Brothers‘ early president, John Brooks, noticed this while at a polo match in England and began producing such a shirt in 1896). Brooks Brothers still produce this style of button-down “polo shirt”.

In 1920, Lewis Lacey, a Canadian (born of English parents in Montreal, Quebec in 1887) haberdasher and polo player, began producing a shirt that was embroidered with an emblem of a polo player, a design originating at the Hurlingham Polo Club near Buenos Aires.[14] The definition of the uniform of polo players – the polo shirt and a pair of white trousers – is actually a fairly recent addition to the sport. Until the 1940s shirts were generally very plain, with no numbers, writing, or logos. When necessary, numbers (ranging from 1 – 4) were simply pinned onto the back of the player’s shirts a few minutes before the start of a match. To differentiate the polo teams from one another, some polo shirts had horizontal stripes, others bore diagonal colored stripes.

In 1972, Ralph Lauren marketed a tennis shirt as a “polo shirt” as a prominent part of his original line Polo, thereby helping further its already widespread popularity. While not specifically designed for use by polo players, Lauren’s shirt imitated what by that time had become the normal attire for polo players. As he desired to exude a certain “WASPishness” in his clothes, initially adopting the style of clothiers like Brooks Brothers, J. Press, and “Savile Row“-style English clothing, he prominently included this attire from the “sport of kings” in his line, replete with a logo reminiscent of Lacoste’s crocodile emblem, depicting a polo player and pony.

Over the latter half of the 20th century, as standard clothing in golf became more casual, the tennis shirt was adopted nearly universally as standard golf attire. Moreover, producing Lacoste’s “tennis shirt” in various golf cuts has resulted in specific designs of the tennis shirt for golf, resulting in the moniker golf shirt. Golf shirts are commonly made out of polyester, cotton-polyester blends, or mercerized cotton. The placket typically holds three or four buttons and consequently extends lower than the typical polo neckline. The collar is typically fabricated using a stitched double layer of the same fabric used to make the shirt.

In contrast to a polo shirt collar, which is usually one-ply ribbed knit cotton. Golf shirts often have a pocket on the left side, to hold a scorepad and pencil, and may not bear a logo there